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Phoenix's food waste reduction program supporting local restaurants enters 2nd phase

In its first phase, Phoenix’s Project REDUCE helped 9 restaurants keep more than 30,000 pounds of food waste out of landfills. The city’s Office of Environmental Programs is now offering micro-grants of up to $2,000 to locally-owned downtown restaurants.

According to project lead Kailey Mullis, Project REDUCE is helping restaurants to implement sustainable practices and to lessen financial barriers, like composting costs.

“We understand that food waste is one of the major contributors to GHG emissions,” said Mullis. “And we also know that Arizona is one of the highest ranked for producing food waste, so we understand that there’s definitely a need there. But the cost savings is huge for restaurants, so it's a win-win.”

Phase 2 of Project REDUCE, she said, is designed around what worked well in the first one to help more restaurants tailor a food waste production plan to their own needs.

“It could be a waste tracking process to inform their production or their menu planning and inventory management,” Mullis said.

Or anything between that and starting a composting program.

“There's a high concentration of locally owned restaurants in the downtown core and that is mainly the focus,” Mullis said of the small- to medium-sized businesses they’re encouraging to apply for the micro-grants, which she added is an easy process she’s happy to guide them through.

The project supports the city-wide food action plan, which prioritizes reducing food waste, but Mullis said it’s also been rewarding to see participating restaurants benefit financially.

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.